The Home of Robert Hugh Benson
I spent the night with some friends at Hare Street, Hertfordshire (just north of London) - the former home of the convert writer Mgr Robert Hugh Benson (author of Lord of the World, Dawn of All, Come Rack! Come Rope!, etc) and, since Benson's death in 1914, the country house of the Archbishop of Westminster. From the above picture you can see how we spent the afternoon: reading in the garden and also catching up on the Divine Office:
In the grounds is a charming memorial chapel:
Mgr Benson himself is buried in the nave:
I said Mass for the repose of Mgr Benson's soul - quite a different feel to Masses in a busy urban parish, with the background sound of birdsong, flies buzzing around and the summer sunshine streaming through the windows.
There is a charming rood above the screen dividing chancel from nave:
Above the side altar there is a statue of Our Lady, carved by Mgr Benson. She is shown trampling some rather frightening demons - demonstrating his rather macabre interest in the occult (as also seen by his ghost stories). He called it Notre Dame des Diables.
As I celebrated the sacred mysteries, I almost expected Benson to make the responses from his tomb! Hare Street is, I most confess, a rather spooky place - there is supposed to be a haunted room and one member of our company had a rather disturbed night, though I suspect he was dreaming. It is certainly a 'magical' place: an Edwardian time-warp full of character, with Benson's own carvings up the stairs and elsewhere - even an imaginary hiding-hole:
I could easily have spent a few more nights at Hare Street and hope to return in the autumn!